Tampan Darat Ritual Cloth

Lampung, Sumatra

Cotton; supplementary weft

19th Century

From a Swiss Collection

32 x 26 inches/81 x 66 cm


Tampan are ritual cloths that were identified by anthropologists as "token" textiles for their use as spiritual "currency." Those cloths known as tampan darat (inland) circulated in the interior of the southern tip of Sumatra between all levels of society through ritual exchange; they were always present at "life crisis" events like births, puberty rites, weddings, attaining a rank in society and funerary rituals. An example of their use might be that a suitor would wrap offerings such as packets of sticky rice to be presented to the parents of his prospective bride when he came courting, to seek their permission for her hand in marriage. Tampan darat preserved an archaic Austronesian iconography like boats and giant birds, or dragons that resemble dinosaurs, as seen in this case. Fertility can often be interpreted as a concern of the weaver, as we see two babies beneath their mother standing in a supporting boat. An ancestor rides atop in a central pavilion. Note the reptile/boat seen in the middle. This is an exceptional example from an old Swiss Collection.